So how serious is Michael Laudrup taking the Capital One Cup? That is the question all Swansea City fans will be asking themselves because if the Dane is committed to taking the club on a ‘special’ cup run, then the tournament seems to be opening up for them.
Middlesbrough travel to south Wales on Wednesday evening as the barrier between Swansea City and a first ever League Cup semi-final, and Laudrup is making all the right noises about repeating his feat with Getafe, where he took an unfancied, mid-table La Liga side to the final of the Copa del Rey in 2008.
And why wouldn’t he sound bullish? His Swans side have had some very good results this season in the Premier League and as they sit in eighth position just three points off the Champions League places, there is no danger of them being dragged into the relegation battle that so many predicted they would succumb to in their second year of top flight football.
It leaves them to continue their fine League Cup form, and after their win over Liverpool at Anfield in the last round you get the sense that, with Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur also eliminated, Laudrup fancies his chances of going all the way – especially with a home match against Championship opposition to negotiate for a place in the last four.
Not that we should do Middlesbrough a disservice. Currently third in the second tier, Boro have great memories of this competition, and their 2004 triumph over Bolton Wanderers in the Cardiff final was a glorious day for the club, and remains the only major honour the club has won in its 136-year history.
But even if Tony Mowbray would probably rather secure promotion to the Premier League than emulate Steve McClaren by winning a trophy (as incredible an achievement as that would be) it doesn’t mean he won’t be looking to win at Swansea and he has also said that he is looking to ‘give it a right go’ and this has the makings of a fine tie.
Swansea are favourites to win inside 90 minutes at 3/5, with the draw at 14/5 and Middlesbrough at 9/2, and I think this could be a trip too far for Mowbray’s side.
Boro are used to going on their travels in this tournament – their trip to Wales is the 12th consecutive occasion they have been drawn away from home and they have won all four of their ties this year without needing extra-time, most notably at Sunderland in the last round. But I can’t help but feel that if Swansea are on form, they should have enough to see off the Teessiders.
Middlesbrough are not in great form – they have lost three of their last five, conceding nine in that time – whereas, Saturday’s loss to Norwich apart, Swansea most definitely are. The 4-3 reverse was only Swans’ second loss in 11 games (the other being away to Manchester City), with positive results against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal achieved in this time.
So I expect Swansea to win, but I also expect goals and 29/20 on a home win with over 2.5 goals is of more value. Middlesbrough definitely have a goal in them, and have scored in all but three of their 25 fixtures this season as Mowbray seems to have cured their poor strike rate of last term.
But they aren’t too great at the back, and Swansea can exploit that weakness. Only three sides in the top half of the Championship have let in more goals than Boro, and seven clean sheets in 25 games isn’t too great a record.
So I expect Swansea’s class to out in front of a full house, but the 29/20 is a better bet than going for odds-on in a cup match that promises goals at both ends.